January 25, 2016

Grateful: Coming Home

We're headed into this new year feeling optimistic and in a good place. With one of Richmond's largest snow storms in recent history behind us this weekend, Tim and I thought to ourselves — this is the first year we didn't need to worry about how the weather may have affected our second home just across the river...

One of the primary challenges we took on over the course of last year was the sale of the house we'd lived in prior to finding and moving into our current home just over 4 years ago. It was an emotional journey, and now successfully on the other side, one that's not only lifted a weight, but is leaving us feeling capable of tackling big challenges that come our way in the future. Today we're looking forward to sharing more of the background and highlights from the journey here on the blog.

For background, when I first met Tim over 12 years ago (wow!) this was his home near the James river. It was the house I moved into when moving back to Virginia from NYC, the house we brought Basil home to and the backbone holding years of family memories, primarily with Tim & his two children. Tim's history with the house spans roughly 15 years. It was a home we officially called "ours" for 2 years until the real estate market began to hit rock bottom and we were able to take advantage of purchasing our current home here in the fan. The state of the market put us in a good position to jump on this house without immediately needing to sell the other.

While always our intention to either rent or sell the other house, it became a convenient place to hold storage we weren't ready to deal with and an investment we'd hope to see realized when and if the market came back around. That being said, it was also a weight on our shoulders — needing regular maintenance and a constant worry in the back of our minds anytime a large storm would come through.

Not to sound overly heavy, but the sale of a home can carry personal weight in many forms — for us, it was the knowing we'd need to not only put a large amount of time and finance into getting the house in good solid shape for sale, but perhaps the bigger truth in needing to face the years of belongings we'd kept stored over there for whatever reason — storing to deal with later, storing to perhaps use later, storing to keep out of our primary home, etc.

After 3+ years of sitting on the home, we were finally ready to address it this past spring. With advice from our realtor, our goal was to have the house ready and listed in the summer for autumn prospects. Given the timeline, we started by setting a tangible date for a yard sale to clear the house, then mapped out a plan for all the needed repairs. Once we had the plan in place, it took about 7 weeks to accomplish the breadth of home repairs: replacing the roof, gutters, windows, re-screening the porch, collective plumbing, painting the exterior, having brickwork done, tree limb removal, light landscaping and other various odds & ends:

While up on the roof, we realized a masked friend had been temporarily taking shelter in our chimney:

Amidst coordinating all the repairs, on the weekends we'd make dedicated trips to the house to address the storage inside, holding ourselves accountable to make some tough decisions. We were able to quickly decipher between yard sale, Craigslist, Goodwill or "need to sort through further" in order to clear out the entire interior.

It was a strange feeling walking through the old house completely empty. Our little helper seemed to appreciate a break on the cool bare floors in the heat of the summer:

We ended up bringing back what felt like a mountain of "maybes" and "need to sort through further" bins/bags, which filled the middle room (formerly Stephanie's room & lucky we had the open space as a temporary holding area):

How's that for keeping it real? I swear we are capable of better. Would you believe this was the same room a few months prior to the above:

While it felt chaotic to have a hoarder-style pile collecting upstairs in our primary home, it also felt refreshing to know that everything we felt was important to keep was now under a single roof instead of split up randomly among two residences. Now that everything has since been sorted, I have a much clearer feeling of knowing exactly what we have and where it all is.

In hindsight, I'll admit that sifting through these "save for later" bins was the toughest part of the process for me, carrying the most emotional baggage. This was the stuff that needed going through one by one, the stuff that had been saved from my childhood, early teenage years, letters from those that have since passed away, the things that had been passed down to me when I was too young to really honor them in a meaningful way — a time capsule of boxes and bins I'd stored in Tim's garage with the plan to go through it all "someday."

As funny as it sounds, I set a goal of getting through the room over the course of 3 weekends — no outings, no excuses. I stuck to the timeline and it took me every hour of those three weekends to get through it. Pro-tip: On Friday nights I would turn on a new episode of Hoarders in order to pump myself up to keep going until it was done.

Going through it all, I understood why I'd been subliminally pushing it all aside for so many years. There were some tears, but more often than not a good laugh and lots of picture texts to family and friends as I rediscovered treasures that unlocked memories I'd long since forgotten. There was a surreal feeling to it — now the adult version of myself peering through a window into a past where the perspective is completely shifted. Life is funny like that.

By late July we'd gotten the house in shape both inside and out, ready for listing on the Richmond market. While still retaining the same bones, the house felt refreshed and like a new space — one of those weird hindsight feelings of wondering why we didn't do these things sooner or while we lived there (life again, does funny things).

Early on our realtor joked that the house would sell during the one window we'd set aside for vacationing in Italy — and that's precisely how it happened. We were sitting on the terrace overlooking the pastoral hills of Umbria with limited wifi when Tim received the initial offer via mobile email. From there, completely over email while abroad we worked with our realtor through the negotiation, contracting and even inspection process. We laughed both at the timing and the ability to press forward with the help of technology.

The final closing date came in mid-October. As a final goodbye on the eve of closing, we planned a final dinner in the old house. It was a makeshift picnic-style meal of takeout Thai food from our old neighborhood favorite, paired with a freshly popped open bottle of bubbly.

Stephanie was able to join in and it was a fun way to reminisce on the memories and think about just how far we've come. When packing everything up and locking the door one final time, the emotion of it all bubbled up in that moment more than we'd expected. While proud of our accomplishment and seeing it through to sale, this was a bittersweet moment of letting go.

Now further removed and on the other end, we are entering this year grateful —

Grateful for not only the shelter our old house provided, but the memories made. Grateful for our ability to hold onto the house until the real estate market returned and we were in a head space ready to tackle the work ahead. Grateful for pushing ourselves to go through years of storage and emotional baggage, challenging ourselves to let go and for feeling organized, simplified and clear on the other side. Grateful for the tradesmen we met, the home repair work we learned how to price out and the contacts we've made moving into new projects. Grateful for a quick sale and the place we find ourselves in now — a single home to focus on, and less weight to carry.

As you can gather, this has been a learning experience for us — one I am sure many can relate to with the sale of a family home. We thank you for taking the time to stop in today to share in the highlights from the largest of projects we tackled over the course of 2015.

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  1. Congrats! We were in a very similar boat with our place outside of NYC (though we did rent it out). When our tenants gave us notice they were moving out we decided it was time to sell, and it's such a load off.

  2. Nice blog thanks for sharing this post.


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